Thursday, October 04, 2007

Michael Chabon at Washington and Lee

I've been looking forward to Michael Chabon's appearance at Washington and Lee University for months, so I couldn't let the fact that I have a lot to do stand in my way of attending. So I drove the 30 miles down to Lexington, nodded to a few people I recognized in the audience, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to Chabon read for an hour his essay, the title of which might have been "Imaginary Homelands" (but I got distracted so I'm not entirely sure). The thrust of the talk was an explanation of how he arrived at the concept for his latest novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and it was an interesting route indeed. Along the way he talked a lot about origins, history, and wound up in some reflections on literary influences and his return to an interest in the fantasy and science fiction that delighted him as a child.

There were questions, none of them stupid (well, maybe one, no two), but Chabon handled them all nicely. And I found myself wishing I had my notebook and pen with me because while he spoke I had an important insight for the story I'm working on. Fortunately it was still in my head when I got home and I'll be able to put it to work tomorrow.

Chabon is an exciting thinker and I need to spend more time with his work.


Sarah Collins Honenberger said...

Just read one of your stories, would like to communicate about fiction writers in the Blue Ridge region. Do you have any idea what Chabon charges for his talks? It's almost criminal. And that's not writer's envy. I believe writers have a responsibility to help aspiring writers. It's a hard road and it's nice to have friends. S.

Clifford Garstang said...

Like a lot of well-established writers, Chabon charges a lot for appearances. This particular talk was free and open to the public because it was paid for by Hillel and other sponsors. I'll have to give more thought to whether I agree that writers have a "responsibility" to help other writers. Thanks for visiting!

Clifford Garstang said...

p.s. I just visited your website, which looks great, and have added you to my Links: Read White Lies

jaywalke said...

I enjoyed the "Best Short Stories of" Chabon edited (2005, I believe) and I finally saw the movie of "Wonder Boys," which survived the transition to film quite nicely, but the big daddy "Kavalier & Clay" didn't do much for me. It had his usual clear moments, but the plot seemed to have too many years in it. I'm still looking forward to reading "Yiddish."

I don't think writers have any responsibility to help other writers. If they want to, fine, but it's not their burden. Unless you have a teaching job, why expend vital energy on a group that is largely destined to fail? This seems to be a sort of railing against the nature of the business, but aimed in the wrong direction. Most writers won't make a living at it, but that doesn't mean the few at the top owe anything to those still on the ladder.

word verification: rqzhikhu - an older, exotic and still very hot shiksa.